In basketball circles, active is a bit of a buzzword. In terms of talent, it doesn't mean much. Anyone can be active. You don't have to play defense to be active. You don't have to rebound. You don't have to make hustle plays. You don't have to be a good basketball player to be active. Being active pretty much just qualifies as working hard, running around, even if you don't know what you're supposed to be doing. Heck, my family's pet chihuahua could be put out on the floor running around, nipping opposing players in the ankles, and still be deemed "active."
But active with a purpose? We can draw meaning from that. Active with a purpose means being locked in when your man isolates against you. It means knowing your team's defensive rotations, and being there to help on dribble drives. It means boxing out your opponent, and rebounding with tenacity. Or, quite simply, it means what JaMychal Green has been doing through the Spurs' first four games in Las Vegas.
Green is a 6'9", 228 lbs. PF, in his third year out of the University of Alabama. Green went undrafted in 2012 due to a growing concern about a lack of NBA potential. He was deemed as too predictable. His offense game came mostly by way of offensive rebounds, cuts to the basket, and a shaky jumper. His rebounding was average for a big man, and defensively there were questions about his mobility.
Fast forward a few years, and he's still relatively the same player, but his skills are more polished, and his motor never stops. Yes, he's limited, but he's aware of his limits. And he does enough things at a high enough level that it warrants a chance at an NBA roster.
His offense still mostly comes by way of put-backs and cuts, but his jumper has improved which helps space the floor a little better. Defensively, he's bulked up so he can better defend post players, and his lack of mobility is negated by his better understanding of positioning. He always works hard on defense, and his active hands help him get blocks and steals. When it comes to rebounding, he throws his added weight around, and fights for every ball.
In short, he is limited. But he knows his limitations. Which brings us back to how active he is, and what kind of active: He is active with a purpose.
He's also enjoying his best summer league yet.
After two years playing for teams in Las Vegas (He first played for San Antonio in 2012, and the Los Angeles Clippers in 2013.) and in the D-League, he finally seems to be finding his groove with this year's Spurs. He's getting a personal-best 8.75 ppg on 51.9% from the field. In 2013 LVSL, he averaged 7 ppg on 48%. He's got another personal best in rebounding, getting 6.5 per game. In 2013 , he had 5.25 per contest. And this solid improvement is coming in 16.2 minutes per game, about 5 less than he was getting last year.
The most important asset of his game, though, is what doesn't show up in the box score. He makes a ton of what coaches like to call championship plays. He's one of those players that's always in the right place at the right time. As discussed before, he gets into correct position defensively, helps hard, and recovers back to his man quickly. He blocks some shots, and alters more. He gets his hands in the way.
For all of these reasons, Green has become somewhat of a darling for Spurs fans this summer league. He does everything you would ever want a role player on the end of the bench to do, and if there were room on the Spurs' bench, may have been welcome to try and earn a spot in training camp. However, as of right now, there's only one space open on the Spurs' roster, and it may even already belong to Aron Baynes. San Antonio fans most likely won't be able to keep cheering Green on, but his play will surely force another team to give him a chance in training camp. If he plays like he has this week, his purposeful activity will win them over as well.